Expats Find Business Opportunities Overseas

Moving abroad is a great way to make a fixed income go as far as possible. When you’re living someplace where the weather is warm… utilities are cheap… taxes are low… and medical care is affordable… you can transform a pension or Social Security payment (that in the States would be barely enough to scrape by on) into a comfortable monthly income with cash to spare.

But not everyone is in the position to use a Social Security or pension payment to finance their life abroad. Many people either don’t have a sufficient fixed income stream or simply want to keep working and earning no matter where they live.

So, if you’re one of those people who wants or needs to keep working, can you start a new life and career outside your home country?

Yes, you absolutely can… and in many cases it’s easier to start a new career in a new location.

Take Kevin Sheehy. Kevin bankrolled his first overseas venture—a Vietnamese restaurant in Quito, Ecuador—with just $14,000.

“In the U.S., you can’t do what I’ve done here in Ecuador… you’d have too much debt to worry about,” he says.

But thanks to low start-up and overhead costs, Kevin was able to open that restaurant… and quickly expand his business activities to include interests in a gym and bar. Now Kevin’s business mini-empire is doing well enough to allow him to spend four months every year traveling for pleasure.

Kevin is just one expat I know who found that opportunity knocked louder abroad rather than back home where start-up costs are higher and competition is more developed.

Josh and Courtney Wilson fell in love with San Marcos, Guatemala but realized staying there would require an income. After looking around, they discovered a need in their new community they could address… and established a school. Today it has an international reputation and a staff of 16.

They began by forming a playgroup with several expat families to provide a learning space for their daughter. But within five months, the group had morphed into a kindergarten, and Courtney found herself as the lead teacher.

Josh and Courtney wanted the classes to be open to all, including the local children who would pass by. So, on a trip back to the States, they created a nonprofit organization for the school, under a U.S. fiscal sponsor. They also began researching Waldorf schools, interviewing teachers and gathering information.

In 2007 a donor contributed funds to help them build their first classroom, and Escuela Caracol was born.

“We could never have afforded to do this in the U.S.,” says Courtney. “First-year running costs were only $15,000. Now the school has 16 staff for 60 children. The local children pay a minimal amount and are sponsored by individuals or groups. Fundraising in the U.S. and support from organizations such as the German Friends of Waldorf enable us to keep expanding. Each year we add a new grade.”

The Wilsons are not alone in discovering they can make a living from what’s important to them. Expats often discover that they can make money doing what they love if they keep their eyes open for opportunities.

Like Kat and Bruce Bennett—they chose to move from Seattle to La Paz, Mexico, in Baja California Sur, on the Sea of Cortez. And to fund their life, Kat and Bruce turned to something they both love… books. They bought an existing bookstore in downtown La Paz.

The Bennetts live within walking distance of their bookstore, Allende Books, and the malecón—the boardwalk on the beach. They rent their one-bedroom apartment for $300 a month, which includes propane (used for the stove and water heater), off-street parking, water, sewerage, garbage collection, and Internet. Electricity is an additional $10 per month.

“It hasn’t been a get-rich-quick scheme, but we make ends meet and enjoy a lifestyle in paradise,” says Kat. “And we love our store.”

So when you think about what you’ll do with yourself after you move abroad, remember that, with an open mind and a bit of ingenuity, opportunities might just find you. And they might just be opportunities that are only possible because of the advantages found abroad.

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